Friday, September 13, 2013

One Million and One

Today I'm going to talk about something that I know you've heard a million times from a million parents. I'm going to put my own take on it, try to help you understand where I'm coming from, of course, but really; you've heard it all before.

And that's okay.

The other day I went to the store, leaving my little one with Laura so I could pick up a few things quickly and then rush back home. Everything was going well until disaster struck:

I saw someone I knew.

Don't get me wrong: I love this person. She is amazing, makes any gathering more fun, and I have no problems with her at all. She's awesome. That had nothing to do with it.

Seriously, she's a great friend and we love her.
But I was exhausted.

I wasn't just tired. Everyone's "tired." I think it's part of being a human. I don't know anybody in my life who hasn't replied at least once to a casual "Hey, you okay?" with "I'm just tired."

We're all tired. We're human.

But no. This is different. I was done. I was 100% not mentally awake enough to deal with anything more than "get things I need, give payment, leave." If anything other than that was required of me I might possibly shut down right then and there, unable to compute.

And here she was, smiling at me from 5 feet away in the dairy section of the store.

I was pleased to see her by my brain was scrambling. What do I say? How do humans interact again? Wait, smile! No, not grimace, smile! That's better. Not too wide; she'll think you're going insane. I am? Oh, okay, wider then! Now, say something. Good. Good job.

I joked a while back that being a parent of a small child is great for introverts, and it's true! I could use Lois as an excuse to get out of anything (but I don't really use her as one - I like seeing my friends). But there's the flip side:

I have to be "on" 100% of the time my baby is awake.

I smile. I laugh. I coo. I read stories for the thirty-seventh time in a row with no end in sight. I lovingly encourage the baby to walk, to climb, to play with that toy. I nod and tell her how awesome she's doing when she's playing with a toy properly. I sing to her.

Because that's what a good dad does.

But that doesn't make it less exhausting, just because I know I'm being a good dad, showing love and support to my baby daughter. No. It's tiring being "on" every minute she's awake. It really is. And it's not like I can say "Well baby-girl, I have to go do this thing over here for a few hours to recharge my batteries. Watch yourself, okay?" Because, like I said, I'm trying to be a good dad over here.

Note: NONE of this is saying that I can't say to Laura "Hon, I need me time away from the baby." Laura is AWESOME about being a fantastic and amazing mother, who supports me and the baby while getting her PhD and saving the world as a part-time superhero on weekends. I cannot stress enough how awesome she is. She is my rock.

Just because I have Laura here, though, doesn't make some days less exhausting. Some days where, in the past I would just pull up the covers and go back to sleep, or take a nap or a walk alone in the woods. Some days where, in the past, I would have disappeared into a video game. I can't do those things. I have to soldier through because I'm a dad and I need to be there for the little one whom I love so much.

This is who I mean. This little stinkpot, right here.
And here I was, exhausted, broken, at the store, and I had to socialize.

Then I realized something.

This is Amanda.

Amanda's an introvert!

Oh, glory of glories! She'll understand!

And she did. After the brief introductory and cursory friendly hellos I explained in a very elegant and intelligent way: "Amanda, I'm sorry, I can't brain right now, or people." She laughed and immediately understood what I meant and why.

But being a parent? It's tiring. Even when you have a baby who only wakes you once a night instead of 6 times (and if she weren't teething she probably wouldn't wake us at all) it's tiring. Your body can handle it but you have to remember that your brain is a muscle too and it gets tired.

Parenthood is amazing but amazing things are often exhausting. So cut your new-parent friend a little bit of slack when you see them in public and they pretend not to see you. It's not you, it's the baby. I promise.*

*Promise void when wrong.

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